WaterAid creates giant sand portrait on Whitby Beach to show how climate change threatens water access for world’s poorest

Posted by
Anna France Williams
16 March 2021
WaterAid/ Jon Snow

Extreme weather such as droughts dry up water sources like springs and wells, while rising sea levels and flooding contaminate poorly protected water supplies, with potentially devastating consequences.  

It is making life harder for the 785 million people already living without clean water close to home and struggling to meet their basic needs. By 2040, the situation is predicted to be even worse with climate change making water perilously scarce for 600 million children – that’s 1 in 4, and an increase of 20 per cent since 2010.* 

Having a reliable source of water means families can protect themselves from the impacts of climate change. 

WaterAid’s 60-metre wide artwork was supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, ahead of World Water Day on 22 March, as a stark reminder that climate change is happening and those who have done least to cause it are feeling its effects first and most severely.  

It took artists from Sand in Your Eye four hours to create the portrait of 12-year-old Ansha from Frat in Ethiopia, who spends hours each day collecting dirty water from a river. After only an hour on Whitby Beach, Ansha’s image was washed away by the rising tide – highlighting how excess rainfall and rising sea levels can lead to flooding, contaminating water and endangering lives. 

On 31 March, the UK government will host a virtual Climate and Development event to build momentum towards this year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26). WaterAid is calling on the UK government to ensure that at least one third of its committed international climate finance is channelled to locally-led adaptation projects that meet the needs of communities impacted by climate change. 

Author, TV chef and WaterAid ambassador Nadiya Hussain MBE is supporting the charity’s call to support families at the forefront of climate change so they have a reliable source of clean water, building security for the future.  

Nadiya Hussain said: 

“WaterAid’s sand portrait is a poignant reminder that climate change is already affecting families around the world. It's a terrible injustice that millions of children’s lives are threatened because of a lack of clean water, and that climate change is making the situation even harder for those in the world’s poorest places who have done the least to cause it.  
“Every child should be able to grow up free from the burden of collecting water so dirty it could make them sick. That’s why I’m supporting WaterAid’s work to help bring clean water to families across the world, enabling them to break the cycle of poverty and protect their children from disease, helping them reach their potential and fulfil their dreams, whatever the future holds.”  

WaterAid has released a new report, Turn the tide: The state of the world’s water 2021, highlighting the devastating impact climate change is having on water and how this is disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest people.  

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive for WaterAid, said: 

“The thought-provoking portrait of Ansha will be swept away by the rising tide but we cannot allow the same to happen to the futures of the vulnerable communities impacted now by climate change.  

“Unless you know that you will be able to get clean water each and every day, the rest of life is a struggle and a drudgery. For many people in the world getting clean water has been made more difficult by climate change, but if they had just a simple tap or pump that always worked then they would be protected by the impact of climate change.  

“Time is running out to crack the climate crisis however and change needs to come from the top too. We want to see leadership from the British Government in making sure that sufficient resources are put into making sure that everyone everywhere has clean water now and forever.”  

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported WaterAid’s work since 2013, helping bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to millions across the world. In 2021, their support will help communities in countries such as Ethiopia and Bangladesh who are already facing the impacts of climate change on their water supplies.  
Find out more about WaterAid’s work: www.wateraid.org  

For more information, please contact:

Anna France-Williams, Senior Media Officer, [email protected] or Susan Springate, [email protected] Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552, or email [email protected]
Notes to Editors: 

Nadiya Hussain 

Nadiya Hussain rose to fame after winning the sixth series of The Great British Bake Off. Since winning, she has presented her own cookery shows including Nadiya Bakes, Nadiya's Time To Eat, Nadiya's British Food Adventure and Nadiya’s Family Favourites plus travelogues, The Chronicles of Nadiya, for which she was nominated for an RTS for Breakthrough Presenter, and Nadiya's Asian Odyssey. Her cookery books and cookery/story books for children have reached bestseller status and she has also written three novels.  

Nadiya’s first picture book, My Monster and Me, was published in October 2019, as was Finding My Voice, an emotive look at the different roles Nadiya plays in her life and how they have shaped her. Nadiya's latest picture book, Today I'm Strong, is published in October 2020. Nadiya has featured in the BBC’s 100 Most Influential Women list. She also features regularly in the media with columns in The Times and previously BBC Good Food Magazine and Essentials. Nadiya lives with her husband Abdal and their three children in Milton Keynes.  

Sand in Your Eye  

Sand In Your Eye make sand sculptures, ice sculptures, pumpkin carvings, sand drawings and land art. The company is based in Hebden Bridge and is composed of a small team of artists. In 2019 they collaborated with Danny Boyle and 14-18 NOW on ‘Pages of the Sea’ where 30 faces were drawn into the sand nationally to commemorate 100 years since Armistice Day.  The project was awarded the ‘Best Visual Art Award’ by The South Bank Sky Arts Awards. On International Peace Day 21 September 2013, Sand In Your Eye made The Fallen 9000 where they drew 9000 stencils of fallen people on the beaches of Arromanches to visually demonstrate what happens in the absence of peace, the piece was featured in TIME magazine. Commercially, Sand In Your Eye have also worked with Land Rover to create a 1KM beach drawing and with Aardman Animation to make the world’s largest animation. 


WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 27 million people with clean water and 27 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid

  • 785 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.1 

  • *Half a billion children live in areas of extreme water stress, set to rise to 600 million by 2040. Water stress occurs when the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period or when poor quality restricts its use.2 

  • 2 billion people in the world – almost one in four – do not have a decent toilet of their own.3  

  • Around 310,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's around 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.4 

  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.5 

  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.6  

People’s Postcode Lottery 

  • People’s Postcode Lottery manages lotteries on behalf of 20 Postcode Trusts. People play with their chosen postcodes for a chance to win cash prizes. A minimum of 32% from each subscription goes directly to charities and good causes in Britain and internationally. Players have raised more than £700 million so far. For details of the charities and good causes which are promoting and benefitting from the lottery draws, please visit www.postcodelottery.co.uk/good-causes/draw-calendar 

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  • Since 2013, players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported WaterAid’s work with more than £16.5m. This support is transforming millions of lives across the world and contributing to WaterAid’s vision of a world where everyone, everywhere has access to these basic human rights. 

  • In 2020, draws linked to WaterAid raised £4.5m